Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Lionel Stander. Dir: Frank Capra.
Once again I begin with not knowing where to begin. Perhaps an outline would have been helpful.
Gary Cooper is second place on my boyfriend list, so I want to let you know that I am trying to be as objective (not objectionable) as possible, but this movie is one of the reasons why he’s on that list, so it will be difficult. Patience, please.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is based on a serial short story called “Opera Hat”, which was the working title of the film for some time, until someone in the ad department at Columbia won a contest for giving it the one by which we know it today. I have no idea what the prize was. Maybe a Starbuck’s gift card? An MP3 player? An iPad? Probably some knitting needles. Or $10, which would be $169.49 in 2013 money. Not too shabby for a hypothetical prize, I’d say.
I want to abbreviate by calling this “Mr. Deeds” but then I get images of Adam Sandler’s very poor remake. Don’t think that I am a snob on this, Mr. Deeds would have been a much better movie if the original movie had never been made. I think everyone who praised it so much had never seen Gary Cooper’s version. It wasn’t terrible, but you know what? THIS (please imagine Adam Sandler’s face for a moment) is nowhere near equal to THIS (please imagine Gary Cooper’s face for a moment).
I have heard this movie referred to as “light-hearted”. Maybe, but I don’t think a movie with such an important message can really be considered as such. I think it should be called “heart-lightening” (not lightning, that would be bad) because the main idea of the movie is keeping what you need and letting go of your burdens as well as the people who burden you.
And now that I’ve said the main idea, I guess I should give an ambiguous non-spoilery plot synopsis thing. Longfellow Deeds is a tuba-playing, greeting card-writing, factory co-owning poet from Mandrake Falls who has everything he needs right there. Then some money comes flying at him via an inheritance. Even though he’s not interested, he is convinced to go to New York City to handle it. “Babe” Bennett is a reporter (rockstar) who succeeds in getting close to him so she can write about him. There are many misdeeds dealt Mr. Deeds (will their be a Mrs. Deeds?) and things get ugly before they get pretty. The End.
Author’s Note: the word “rockstar” inserted above is due to the fact that, in those days, newspaper reporters were treated and depicted as people who have what is known as rockstar status now. I have mentioned this more than once before.
The chemistry between Cooper and Arthur is wonderful, stupendous, amazing, etc. The chemistry between Cooper and the camera is even better.
Here are some bits of trivia:
Gary Cooper was Frank Capra’s first and only choice to play Longfellow Deeds. So certain was Capra that Cooper was the right man for the job that he delayed production until Cooper was available, a delay that ended up costing $100,000.
Jean Arthur was not Capra’s first choice to play Babe Bennett. Carole Lombard was. Now, I love Carole Lombard; she was brilliant. I have to say, though, that she could not have brought to this movie what Jean Arthur did. Lombard was going to do the movie and then she cut out 3 days before filming to take a part in “My Man Godfrey”, which wouldn’t have been right without her. So Capra started filming exterior scenery and was 4 or 5 days into that when he finally found Jean Arthur. This was her first featued role, though she had been working in Hollywood some 13 years prior to this moment of meteoric overnight success. In fact, she was in my #1 boyfriend’s film “Seven Chances” eleven years earlier. Uncredited, of course. Studio executives weren’t excited about Arthur’s face for Bennett, but Capra got them to allow him to cast her because of her voice. And it’s a very nice voice.
It has been rumored that the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was intended to be a sequel of sorts to Mr. Deeds. This has been discredited, and even if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t believe it anyway. It doesn’t make any sense. Smith is an entirely different kind of man (almost) from Deeds. I have no reason to believe that Cooper wouldn’t have made this movie if it were a sequel either. Smith was based on a novel that was already out of print by the time Capra got his hands on it too. But if you go to IMDb, a public contributor spews this lie right onto your screen. (Did I mention I had to go in and correct IMDb a few times for things I just couldn’t let go? This isn’t one of those things, I can let it go, so you can imagine how egregious the other things were.)
Lionel Stander went on to become just as successful and famous in television as he was in movies (which means “moderately”). My first exposure to him was as the butler/chauffeur on Hart to Hart, a show which I’ve seen enough snippits of to constitute one half of an episode’s airtime. I didn’t mention him in the plot synopsis thingy because I felt like I would be telling too much, and also I’m lazy.
Enough with the trivia.
Overall, after watching this film, your heart will become a puddle in the lower cavity of your chest. It’s not sad or anything like that, it’s just that it will warm your heart, and then Gary Cooper will take it a step further and flat-out melt it. So if your heart is cold or even freezing, I recommend you take 112 minutes out of your life and watch it.